Saturday, March 8, 2014

Book Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2013
Source/Format:Library / e-book
Length: 391 pages
From Goodreads:

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret…

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

I didn't think it was possible for me to love a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" as much as I loved Rosamund Hodge's Cruel Beauty…until I finished Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay. In fact, I'm having such a hard time trying to form my feels into coherent sentences that I'm going to do this review a bit differently--with a bulleted list.

What I Loved About Of Beast and Beauty
  • The mythology of the world. The story starts off with a beautifully written prologue about two entities known as the Dark Heart and the Pure Heart, and the dark bargains the humans make with them when they first arrive on the planet. It was so convincingly written that it felt like I was reading an actual myth. I loved how Jay incorporated the iconic roses into her retelling, turning them into living, bloodthirsty things. There is some seriously evil magic going down in this book.
  • Multiple points of view. After the prologue, the story is split between three main characters: Isra, the princess and future queen of Yuan; Gem, a Monstrous soldier; and Bo, a Yuan soldier and the son of Isra's calculating head advisor, Junjie. I have mixed feelings about books with different POVs--sometimes it works, other times I find myself wondering why they're necessary. This book was a case in which the different POVs definitely enriched the story.
  • The romance. As with any good "Beauty and the Beast" story, the romance doesn't blossom right away. At first, Gem and Isra are so caught up in their mutual hatred of each other's kind that you wonder how they will ever end up together. Even after Isra grows more caring toward Gem, sympathizing with the plight of his people, Gem still clings to his long-held hatred of the "Smooth Skins." Though he recognizes he has feelings for Isra, he is conflicted by his emotions and his duty to his people. 
  • The villains: Bo and Junjie. I hated them so much. At first, Bo seems to be harmless, apart from his overeager attempts to woo Isra. But boy when that switch flips, you find out real fast that Bo is not a good guy. Not even close. He is chauvinistic, domineering, prejudiced, and bent on getting his way. At times I was so disgusted by him that I found myself literally shaking with anger while reading his point of view (props to Stacey Jay for writing such a villainy villain). And Junjie, ugh. No wonder Bo is so nasty, having such a cold, calculating man for a father.
  • The book is constantly raising the question "who is the beast?" Is it Isra, who has been brought up to believe she is "tainted" by Monstrous traits? Is it Gem, a Monstrous himself, who looks like a beast and burns with hatred for the Smooth Skins? Or is it the power-hungry Junjie, and the nobles of Yuan, who fear the Monstrous and punish those born with the mutations?
  •  The ending. I don't want to be spoilery so I'll just say that I may have shed a few happy tears. :)

    So, have any of you read Of Beast and Beauty? What did you think?


    1. I haven't read this one yet, but I am definitely adding it to my Want to Read list!

      Also, I nominated you for the Liebster award. The information can be found here:

    2. Yay! You won't be disappointed! :)

      Aww, thank you so much! That's very sweet!

    3. I really enjoyed this one! And haven't had a chance to read Cruel Beauty yet, so your praise of that makes me want to pick it up right away! I'm glad you enjoyed this one too! Great review!


    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I read every single one and they brighten my day. While I may not be able to respond to all comments, I do make an effort to visit your blogs if you include a link! :)